The Great Southwest Golf Club in Grand Prairie has closed and will be turned into an industrial park.
The owners of Woodhaven Golf Club in east Fort Worth have put it into bankruptcy. Lenders foreclosed on Benbrook’s Whitestone Golf Club and now operate the course as they look for a buyer. Timberview Golf Club in far southeast Fort Worth was sold to a Midland-based foundation that donated it to Rivertree Academy in Fort Worth, which plans a private school and farm for youths.
And the Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth, where golfing legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson learned the game as kids, is becoming home to a distillery.
The Great Recession was hard on the golf industry nationwide. In 2013, an estimated 160 courses closed, far more than opened, according to data from the National Golf Foundation reported by Bloomberg News.
Golf has been a growing business in Texas. According to a report on the state’s golf industry published in May for the Texas Alliance for Golf, the sport generated an estimated $4.2 billion in direct economic activity, a nearly 21 percent increase from 2006, when that figure was $3.5 billion.
The number of rounds played and participation stabilized last year, according to the National Golf Foundation. Bad weather suppressed rounds in the first quarter last year, and the year finished only 1.7 percent behind 2013, the foundation said in a recent report.
“All things considered, 2014 may well be remembered as the year golf found its post-recession footing and turned a corner toward a future at least a little brighter than its recent past,” the report said.
Still, after a couple of decades that added numerous golf courses in North Texas, a shakeout appears to be underway.
Two courses sold
In far southeast Fort Worth, at Anglin Drive and Enon Avenue, sits the former Timberview Golf Club. But it hardly looks like a golf course anymore.
With the course closed for months, the greens have been consumed by tall weeds, the ponds are overgrown, and patches of wildflowers are sprouting.
The two-story white clubhouse looks more like an abandoned house. But life is being brought back to the property. In a couple of years, the land will give way to student and staff housing for Rivertree Academy.
In September, the 50-year-old golf club was sold by its owners to the Cary Brown Family Foundation in Midland, which donated the 120-acre property to the Rivertree Academy, a Christian private school. Rivertree Academy wasn’t looking specifically for a golf course for their project, but Timberview offered the right amount of property in the right place. They bid on Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth, but lost out to the distiller, Firestone & Robertson in Fort Worth.
Terrence Butler, Rivertree Academy’s executive director, calls the location perfect. Even though their plan calls for students to be living at the site in a couple of years, the property is being overhauled for its Malachi Farm, a soon-to-be working farm with chickens, cattle, and a full vegetable garden. A peach and pear tree orchard has already been planted.
As Rivertree Academy will serve youth from Fort Worth’s Como area, the location is only about 30 minutes away, Butler said.
In August, Rivertree Academy will open a pre-K to 2nd grade school at 5443 Bonnell Ave. for 40 students, and will grow that location to 200 students in grades pre-K to 5th grades over the next couple of years. Beginning in 2017, the golf course will become a residential school and farm for eight 6th grade boys and 8 6th grade girls. That will grow to include students up to the 12th grade.
“Our hope is there are parents who want a great education for their children,” he said.
Timberview opened in 1963 and expanded to 18 holes in 1969. It closed for several months is 2002 and reopened in 2003 under new ownership.
At the 168-acre Great Southwest Golf Course, in area off Texas 360 and Avenue J heavily developed with industrial projects, developers are in a holding pattern as they work out property-use issues with the city of Grand Prairie and homeowners near the former course. A June trial is planned that will determine how the project moves forward.
The developers have offered about 90 acres as a public amenity, as well as additional land to the homeowners to create a landscape buffer. The private course opened in 1965 and closed April 1 because of declining membership.
As some golf courses are being put to other use, others are dealing with financial woes.
After several months of facing foreclosure, WCC Partners in Arlington on April 7 filed for bankruptcy reorganization a year after buying Woodhaven Country Club from Fort Worth businessman Louis Scoma. Scoma bought the 148-acre course in 2011 from a Washington, D.C.-based private equity firm.
WCC Partners is a partnership of Charles Hanna and Ted Hanson of Utah, and W.T. “Skip” Leake, an Arlington attorney, according to Texas Secretary of State records. Hanson is a former owner of the LaJoya Apartments in Arlington who was fined $82,000 by the city for various code violations. He lost the property in a foreclosure to lender Fannie Mae.
The bankruptcy filing said WCC Partners has up to $50,000 in assets but liabilities between $1 million and $10 million, including $2.3 million it still owes the Scoma Family partnership and $179,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. The Scomas posted the property several times for being in default, and the bankruptcy was filed just before it was headed to the courthouse steps for auction. Scoma said he wants the property back.
“When I bought it four years ago, it was mess,” Scoma said of the club. After spending an undisclosed amount to “turn the corner” on the facilities, Scoma said he was approached by the new owner.
“I wasn’t even trying to sell it,” said Scoma, a member for 45 years. “They’ve missed several payments. It would have been better for the club” had it gone to foreclosure, he said.
Scoma has filed a pleading with the bankruptcy court alleging WCC Partners filed the bankruptcy in “bad faith.”
Leake did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Fort Worth-based Escalante Golf, a boutique owner and operator of luxury golf properties, which moved its headquarters here in 2011, in mid-April filed for bankruptcy reorganization in Fort Worth for the Crosby National Golf Club in San Diego. It acquired the course in 2009 from Starwood Capital.
Last year, a Boston-based private investment firm acquired a loan portfolio from Textron Financial Corp. and in December foreclosed on Somerset-Whitestone Golf, Ltd. which owned the Whitestone Golf Club on Highway 377 South in Benbrook. The 158-acre course was opened in 2000. The owner of the privately-held public course was in default on a $2.9 million note.
The new owners hired Austin-based Touchstone Golf to manage the property. Touchstone Golf manages 35 courses in 12 states, including six others in Texas.
Chris Robertson, a regional vice president with Touchstone, said his company is working on fixing infrastructure issues and making other improvements, all designed to increase the number of golfers at the course. The club is public and offers various membership packages. They’ve also hired a director to drive sales and boost marketing, he said.
Robertson is bullish on the market. A recent cool and sunny Sunday was one of its best this year, with more than 200 rounds of golf played.
“It’s a really good layout and an enjoyable course,” Robertson said. “There are a number of competitors in the market but we should be able to increase the rounds of golf. Benbrook is a growing community.”
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727